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galangal in khmer cuisine

Galangal, also known as “romdeng” in Khmer, is a spice that plays an important role in Khmer cuisine, bringing a unique and aromatic flavor to traditional Cambodian dishes. Its diversified use makes it one of the most popular spices in Cambodian gastronomy. Here is a detailed overview of its use:
Romdeng is frequently used to flavor soups, giving a characteristic depth of flavor to Khmer dishes. It is often found in the famous Cambodian soup “samlor machu trey”, a sweet and sour soup made from fish. Galangal is finely chopped or mashed, then added to the soup as it cooks, releasing its pungent, lemony aromas. It adds a distinct taste dimension and a subtle freshness to the dish.
In addition to soups, galangal is a key ingredient in Cambodian curries. It is usually used fresh, chopped or mashed, then added to curry paste. Galangal combined with other spices like ginger, garlic, turmeric and chilli helps create an aromatic and spicy curry paste. This paste is used to prepare iconic dishes like “kari sach moan” (chicken curry) and “amok trey” (steamed fish in curry sauce). Galangal brings a complex flavor and intense aroma to these dishes, transforming them into Khmer delights.
Romdeng is also used in marinades for meats and seafood. Combined with lime, garlic, ginger, fish sauce and sometimes palm sugar, galangal adds a distinctive aromatic note in the marinade. Meats and seafood are left to marinate in this fragrant mixture, giving them a distinctive flavor before cooking.
In sautéed dishes and sautéed vegetables, galangal is added at the start of cooking to release its aromas. It goes perfectly with local ingredients such as green vegetables, fresh herbs, prawns and chicken. Its zesty, lemony flavor complements the other ingredients in the dish, creating a harmonious balance of flavors.
Finally, romdeng is also used to flavor dipping sauces, which often accompany Cambodian spring rolls or fresh vegetable salads. Galangal, finely chopped or grated, is mixed with other ingredients such as fish sauce, palm sugar, lime juice and chilli to create aromatic dipping sauces. These sauces add a burst of flavor to the taste of fresh vegetables and spring rolls.
In summary, galangal, or romdeng, is an essential spice in Khmer cuisine, bringing a unique and distinctive flavor to traditional Cambodian dishes. Its tangy, slightly spicy and lemony flavor adds depth and complexity to soups, curries, marinades and stir-fries. Whether creating a sweet and sour soup, a fragrant curry or a savory marinade, galangal is a versatile ingredient that lends an authentic touch to Khmer cuisine.
In Khmer cuisine, galangal is a spice appreciated for its aromatic and taste properties. Its skilfully measured use adds an extra dimension to every dish, creating a symphony of flavors and aromas. Whether you’re discovering Khmer cuisine at a restaurant or trying to replicate traditional recipes at home, don’t forget to experiment with galangal to add a touch of Cambodian authenticity to your culinary creations.


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